Delays and tight lips surrounding the massive PhoenixMart project in Casa Grande are part of doing business, and “naysayers” should be patient, Pinal County Supervisor Carol Chase tells Rose Law Group Reporter.
“What company tells everyone everything they are doing? It is called keeping a competitive advantage,” she said in an e-mail. “Keeping things quiet certainly is not just a Phoenix Mart phenomena [sic].”
Chase referred to an exclusive article by Rose Law Group Reporter in which several Casa Grande city officials expressed frustrations over the $1B, 585-acre, 1.7-million-square-foot global product sourcing center project. Two project CEOs have resigned since the project was announced in 2013.
“Like any huge multi-million dollar project, [PhoenixMart] morphed as time went on,” Chase said. [PhoenixMart parent, a Chinese company] Az Sourcing started out with one plan, but as time rolled on, decided that the original plans could be modified to reach max potential . . . a new concept of doing business, and changes to plans are expected. Same with keeping their plans ‘close to the vest.’ ”
Az Sourcing is headed by Elizabeth Mann, who has rejected requests for an interview.
As reported by multiple news sources, she was the subject of two criminal investigations years ago, but was never charged.
A source close to the project told Rose Law Group Reporter some of the problems involve differences in the way Chinese and Americans view business strategies and tactics.
Chase said, “Add the fact that the [PhoenixMart] project is a combination of mostly Chinese and American business strategies involving hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign capital, different attitudes on how local governments can or will be involved and simply the experience of vastly different cultures, make the entire process extremely difficult to identify and mitigate the myriad of problems inherent in a project of this scope and size.”
During a Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in October last year, AZ Sourcing then-CEO Jeremy Schoenfelder pushed back a 2105 completion date, saying building the facility might extend into 2016.
“Economic development is a marathon, not a sprint,” Chase said. “The fact that a groundbreaking ceremony was held over two years ago, and construction has just started in the past two weeks does not mean the project is in danger.”
Risking a catastrophe by rushing the project, she said, “is not a good Chinese or American business model.”